Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., only recently survived an attempt from his right flank to oust him from leading the House. Nonetheless, he is planning to plow ahead into a fight over government spending that could tear wide open the bitter personal wounds and policy disputes that have badly divided House Republicans.

Johnson and his leadership team officially announced during a GOP conference meeting Wednesday an ambitious timeline to pass as many of the 12 government spending measures for fiscal year 2025 – otherwise known as appropriations bills – as possible in the coming months. He wants to do so before lawmakers spend August campaigning in their districts, according to multiple people in attendance who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss off-the-record meetings.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. Matt McClain/The Washington Post

It’s a bold move from the speaker, who, because of his slender House majority, is always tottering on the precipice of failure, both in passing bills and keeping his gavel. Tackling spending cuts ahead of an election could be perilous. Last year’s appropriations process led to the first ouster of a House speaker in history and sparked the movement to remove Johnson from the speakership. In both instances, the GOP majority relied on Democrats to fund the government for the current fiscal year.

And those tensions are still simmering. The speaker’s right flank is already demanding that Johnson punt funding the government until after the November election or incorporate drastic spending cuts. Moderate Republicans representing swing districts worry hard-liners will put them in a precarious position so close to the election by forcing votes on extreme measures that made House bills go nowhere during the last funding cycle.

Luckily for the speaker, the House doesn’t face imminent deadlines, such as keeping the government funded until the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. And as of right now, there are some signs that hard-liners are willing to go along with his plan to fund the government and avoid chaos five weeks before the election.

With a recent declaration that he intends to lead Republicans post-November, Johnson is moving full steam ahead in hopes of restoring some kind of comity to the unruly House. His goal is not to wait until late September to negotiate with the Senate but rather to begin passing bills through the House in June and July.


Clearing the deck sooner rather than later, the speaker said in meetings last week, would give GOP lawmakers more time to collectively plan the future. Johnson is brainstorming what the next House Republican majority’s first 100 days would strive to achieve in hopes of releasing a slate of goals that unites the conference ahead of campaigning during the August break.

Johnson and former president Donald Trump have briefly discussed needing to align their policy priorities if voters decide to reelect a House GOP majority and choose Trump as president, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

Johnson tried to brighten Republican spirits last week, telling colleagues that Trump’s poll numbers give him a good chance of being reelected and that Republicans are poised to control both chambers of Congress in 2025. The idea of a conservative trifecta – a Republican president, House and Senate – is influencing how the speaker is shaping his decisions for the rest of this session, and how his ideas are being received by members.

After defeating a move earlier this month by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to oust him, Johnson turned to less divisive issues among Republicans, focusing on messaging bills that unite his conference and have divided House Democrats, though they have little hope of gaining traction in the Senate.

So far, Johnson has put bills on the floor that would restrict how the D.C. Council manages crime in the nation’s capital and condemns the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. The House will also focus on passing several “election security” bills next month, including to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting, which is already illegal.

The minor wins appear to have reminded the House GOP of what a functioning governing majority could look like. But many battle-scarred members are still bracing for a rocky future.


Republicans know they need to use their next several weeks in session wisely to iron out differences on bills they must address this fall such as the National Defense Authorization Act and a flurry of proposals packaged to reauthorize farming and agricultural programs and to discuss how to raise the debt ceiling by January.

No issue has been more contentious than compromising on how the government should spend its money. House Republicans passed eight of 12 appropriations bills last year, many of which included drastic cuts that were nonstarters in the Senate. House Republicans were unable to agree on the other four bills as far-right members pulled their support in the name of purity.

The policy differences and the amount the government should spend in 2024 led to multiple stopgap bills to prevent a shutdown until both chambers compromised on all 12 bills to fully fund the government in March.

The same battle lines are once again being drawn for fiscal 2025.

Allies close to Johnson say that like last time, some of the spending bills will be easier to pass and lawmakers could do so as soon as next month. But the speaker has not said what would happen if House Republicans failed to unite on some of the most controversial spending bills, leading several to believe the majority would probably have to rely on Democrats – again – to fund the government by Sept. 30.

Republicans know their fiscal battles must be kept to a low boil so that they do not appear unable to govern. The House’s farthest-right flank is pushing to punt legislating into the new year in hopes that a GOP hold over the White House and Congress would mean it could finally implement its agenda.


The House Freedom Caucus seems to want to delay the spending battles until early 2025 and instead pass a short-term extension of current funding levels, which the group spent all last year fighting.

“I don’t believe based on the history of the last year and a half, that we’re going to effectively fight for policy changes or spending reductions. So I think the best thing we can realistically hope for is that we just keep [funding levels] as is for six months … and then new government, whoever that may be, will impact and decide the funding and the priorities and policies for the next year,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., said. “Now that would relieve the pressure of a government shutdown.”

It’s a dramatic turnabout to many Republicans who quickly pointed out the far right’s double standard. The Freedom Caucus was vehemently against any short-term extension in the 2024 appropriations process, demanding instead that the House GOP pass ultraconservative bills even if that led to a government shutdown. Government-minded Republicans instead relied on Democrats to avert a shutdown multiple times over several months.

Meanwhile, more pragmatic conservatives prefer to finish the appropriations process ahead of the new year, hoping to move ahead on consequential legislative deadlines – like addressing the debt ceiling – that loom in 2025. Those members also warn that the speaker should not entertain the agenda of a handful of hard-liners who have moved goal posts and ultimately oppose whatever Republicans put forth.

“I think people understand we need to build back the muscle memory of actually doing our appropriations work. I think that means we need to come as close as possible to passing total appropriations bills out here before we leave for August,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., who chairs the pragmatic Main Street Caucus.

So far, House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., has released top lines for each funding bill that largely mirror parameters set by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and President Biden last May, which the House Freedom Caucus has revolted against.


And some Republicans are considering adding some of the same conservative policy riders – known as “poison pills” – to the 2025 spending bills as in the past, which could plague the process again and expose divisions as Republicans try to prove to voters that they deserve another two years in the majority.

“In an election year, it’s more challenging. That combined with a thin margin makes it harder than it was last year,” said Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., a Freedom Caucus member who serves on the Appropriations Committee. “It’s a rough process when you have a one-vote margin. We shouldn’t expect everything to flow smoothly, but we’re interested in moving conservative legislation forward, and so I say give it a try.”


Jacqueline Alemany, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Jacob Bogage contributed to this report.

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